The Big Issue has come under fire after announcing a controversial deal which will see magazine vendors wearing the logo of a wine company sponsor.
Big Issue bosses have signed a £60,000 deal to advertise wine company Fairhills on new high-visibility red tabards to be worn by its employees.
But the charity’s street vendors believe the move is highly inappropriate as many of them are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.
Homeless Matthew Blackman, 40, who sells The Big Issue in Bristol city centre, described the new tabards as ”wrong” and ”a big mistake”.
He said: ”It’s disgusting because most of us vendors are either drug addicts or alcoholics. To be sponsored by a company that profits from that seems wrong.
”They are making a big mistake. Even though they are being paid a lot of money it’s still bad publicity. It’s like some bad, ironic joke.”
Steve, who sells the magazine in Bath, added: ”I am a bit annoyed to hear that a wine company will be sponsoring the jackets as a lot of the vendors have an alcohol dependency.
”If it is helping the Big Issue then it is important but I think the company should provide some kind of support to vendors on how to get off the alcohol.”
The Big Issue Foundation offers homeless and vulnerable people in Britain the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by ”working not begging”.
Vendors buy the magazine for 85p and then sell them to the public for £1.70, keeping the 85p profit for themselves.
However, Big Issue salesmen and women are up in arms after the charity announced a sponsorship deal with organic wine company Fairhills.
From August 1 this year 3,000 high-visibility red vests featuring a wine advert on the front and rear will be worn by vendors.
Big Issue Chief executive Stephen Robertson said the initiative would make vendors more visible and claimed they can choose whether to wear the tabard or not.
He said: ”We know that by having these tabards available vendors will be a lot more visible and raise the company’s profile which will make them more able to turn their paper sales into money for them.
”We don’t work with companies that directly undermine our ethos and if vendors feel they are not at the stage where they are happy to wear the jacket that is their choice.
”We are not insisting that they wear it and if they don’t want to then we respect that.”
However, vendor Pat, who did not want his surname printed, claims that The Big Issue is forcing them to wear the new tabards.
He said: ”They’re [Big Issue] telling us, not asking us, to advertise an alcoholic product.
”I’m a recovering alcoholic. Most vendors have one addiction or the other – that’s why they’re selling it.”
Big Issue publisher Lisa Woodman said it had been trying to secure sponsorship for jackets for a long time before striking a deal with Fairhills.
She said: ”This is something we have wanted for a long, long time to offer these jackets to our vendors but we just don’t have the funds to cover the costs.
”It has taken us a while in this economic climate to find someone to cover these costs so we are really grateful to Fairhills.”
Fairhills is an organic wine company associated with the Fairtrade movement and produces wines from Argentina, Chile, and South Africa.
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